Thursday, June 28, 2012

Confessions Of Repentant Zealot

Guest post by Repentant Zealot

Most of my life, I have been a zealot. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica a zealot is:

A member of a Jewish sect noted for its uncompromising opposition to pagan Rome and the polytheism it professed. The Zealots were an aggressive political party whose concern for the national and religious life of the Jewish people led them to despise even Jews who sought peace and conciliation with the Roman authorities. A census of Galilee ordered by Rome in AD 6 spurred the Zealots to rally the populace to noncompliance on the grounds that agreement was an implicit acknowledgment by Jews of the right of pagans to rule their nation.

Except I have been an American Zealot. Read the description again and insert American for Jewish.

Maybe exchange Roman with Liberal.

With another presidential election bearing down on we the people, many of my brother and sister Believers exercise their faith in the Almighty by reaffirming their sincere, heartfelt allegiance to the political parties (or party) that are His last and best hope for the USA. And the USA, we hold to be self-evident, is His last and best hope for the world.

There are many who proclaim (as I have) I’m a right-wing, religious zealot, and proud of it!

They, as I did, sing and swear by the Faith of the Fathers. Who are they?

     Stephen? No. He didn’t fight back.

     Peter? No. Too Catholic.

     Augustine? No. Also too Catholic.

     Luther? No. Too Lutheran.

     Justin Martyr? No. He was a martyr. And rarely if ever mentioned by Focus on the Family. Or Glenn Beck.

Who then? Whose faith?

    Columbus. He said the Holy Spirit gave him the idea to discover America.

    Washington. He prayed at Valley Forge.

    Jefferson. He didn’t pray, but he said the Creator gave us rights.

    Franklin. He flew a kite in a lighting storm. If God didn’t approve of him, he had ample opportunity to put an end to him then and there.

    Paine. He didn’t like Christianity very much. But he taught us that war is nothing less than Common Sense.

    Adams. He said you can only rightly govern with God and the Bible.

    Hamilton. He helped us have money.

    Jackson. He helped our Country be safe from pagans.

    Lincoln. He talked about God a lot. And ended racism. His name should have been Moses.

Clearly, I’m speaking simplistically. (And I will continue to do so for a moment).

My years under very zealot-like patriotic evangelical tutelage have taught me that the USA’s Founding Fathers are our standard of American spirituality. They talked about three main things: 1. God. 2. Our God-Given Rights. 3. What to do about those who won’t give us Our God-Given Rights.

They, Our Founders, based them all on the Bible. They put their lives on the line to secure them for us. They would be very unhappy with the Liberals and Muslims for wanting to take away our rights.

Our Military, too, fights for Our Rights. The Rights God Gave Us. The rights that the Enlightenment philosophers told us that he gave us.

What’s the Enlightenment? Ummm. I don’t know. Moving on.

But Our Founding Fathers talked about God And Our Rights. So that’s what we talk about too. That’s what we’re fighting for. And it’s what Jesus would do too. I mean, God told the Children of Israel to kill all the Canaanites. He gave them the Promised Land. And that’s why we have to support Israel too.

We have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So, if nothing else, vote for someone who is against abortion. I mean Pro-Life. That’s the same thing.

That’s why I’m voting for Mitt Romney. He says he’s Pro-Life. He didn’t used to, but now he does. And I know he’s a Mormon, but he probably doesn’t believe it that much. And that’s better than someone without a birth certificate and middle name like Hussein. What’s American about that?


Does this line of thinking and kind of speaking sound familiar to anyone else? This is what I spent the first 21 years of my life arguing with people about. This is what I spent those years studying. And I was a zealot.

In college Jesus started challenging my assumptions. He did, after all, call zealots to follow him instead. And here are some teachings I couldn’t reconcile with my original world view:

    1.    Love my neighbor as myself.

    2.    Bless and do not curse.

    3.    My love for God is shown in my treatment of my enemies, not my family or friends.

    4.    If I don’t forgive my enemies and those who sin against me, God doesn’t forgive me.

    5.    Jesus forgave his torturers and murderers while he was hanging on the cross. Before they ever asked for or deserved forgiveness.

    6.    Jesus says to do what he did.

    7.    Jesus says everything he did and said he first heard from the Father.

    8.    Stephen, as he was being stoned, said to his murderers what Jesus had first said to his murderers.

    9.    A chapter after Stephen forgave the Jewish terrorist Saul, the ringleader of the stoning mob, we find out that Jesus had also forgiven Saul, probably about the same time when Stephen did.

These revelations from scripture did a number on many of my beliefs. Especially my political views, which, sad to say, were a sacred cow to me. Which brings me to…

    10.     God melted down a sacred cow once and told the people to drink it.

So, for a time I did very zealously cast aspersions on both heads of our current political beast while maintaining faith in the basically godly and Christian founding of the USA.

Unfortunately, as I kept studying (and believing) scripture, I kept running into frustration. Here’s one:

Jesus seems to be concerned only with the way I treat others. Same with the Ten Commandments.

Jesus, as far as I know, never says to his Disciples, “Everyone must treat you nicely.” He also is frustratingly silent about what rights I can demand.

I had always been taught and/or assumed that…

    1.    “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” implied my right to freedom of religion.

    2.    “Thou shalt not kill” implied my right to life.

    3.    “Thou shalt not steal” implied my right to property.

But does it?

Can I assume the contra-positive?

Then I saw that the teachings of the Law, the Prophets, and Jesus are summed up in “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And that command has a direction – away from me.

Right now I’m using my fingers to point away from me to indicate the direction of Jesus’ teachings. He tells me to love my neighbor. So I have to point away from myself.

So. I now believe that being Christian is about studying, preserving, and enacting the teachings of Jesus in my own life. Or in other words, my priorities and actions should follow the direction of his priorities and actions.

The direction of Jesus’ teaching was away from himself. Upward towards the Father. Outward toward his neighbors.

Then I thought again about the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

(Feel free to correct me – I rattled that one off from memory… I said, I have steeped in belief in America’s Christian Heritage)

Does the concept of rights preserve and enact the teachings of Jesus or of the Mosaic Law?

Here are some red flags I see.

    1.    “We hold these truths to be self-evident” – Are they? Was the Law self-evident (that is, able to figured out through human rationality and intellect alone)? If so, why did God make the big deal of giving His Law at Mt. Sinai? Why did Jesus have to come as “the exact representation of the Father” if these things were self-evident?

    2.     “All men are created equal” – While I agree, is that a priority or teaching of Jesus? It seems that he would say it differently. Probably we should look for a more Jesus way to understand equally. Likely, it will be focus on my neighbor’s needs over my wants, rather than a banner, parade, or talk show declaring with much zeal my own worth.

    3.    “That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” – Has he? Scripture does say that all have been endowed with the breath of life. He has revealed his Law. He has appeared in the flesh. He has brought good news to prisoners. He has healed the sick. He has given sight to the blind. He gave his people the Promised Land. But He also alienated them from it on more than one occasion due to their sin. “Unalienable rights”? Is that Jesus? Is that the leading of the Holy Spirit who Jesus said would remind us of all he taught?

    4.    “That among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – Does Jesus say I have the right to life? Didn’t he say and do the opposite? What about liberty? Did Paul organize an intrepid legal team to ensure his liberty? Or was he a prisoner for Christ’s sake? John the Baptist was killed in prison. These things seem to have been God’s will. Is desiring liberty the same as demanding it? Because I want liberty. I don’t want to be in a gulag, being tortured. But can I demand it? And happiness? It pleased the Father that Christ should suffer. This is hard to swallow. Again, I want happiness. But is it the teaching of Jesus to demand the right to pursue it?

    5.    “That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men”—Is that exactly what they’re their for? What does scripture teach?

    6.    “Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” – Is that what God prescribes? When the Israelites demanded a king, what happened? Not just during David and Solomon, but in the long run? Is it an idea Jesus supports? “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; give to God what is God’s” What bears God’s image that it should be surrendered to him?

Brothers and sisters in the Lord, we in the US have clung to our rights with religious fervor. With zealotry. We have fought wars in which untold masses of innocent lives on all sides have been violently ended – all whenever we have been told our rights have been threatened, whether legitimately or not.

We have been apostles of political agendas. We have demanded our rights. We have demanded laws for school prayer, against gay marriage and abortion, and against taxes.  We have marched in the streets in support of Judeo-Christian Family Values. And all the while, wickedness has increased in society and in the Church.

(Please know that I too favor school prayer, that I do not believe “gay marriage” is marriage, regardless of what the Government says, and pray that someday abortion is illegal).

The problem is that the direction of our priorities has been inverted. Jesus pointed away from himself. But now we point toward ourselves. My rights. Mine. My own. My precious.

And now a troubling passage.

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.     --2 Thes. 2:9-12

How does Satan work? Displays of power. Signs. Wonders.  That serve the lie.

When he tempted Jesus, he used scripture with cunning. God’s words with a twist.

I fear we have accepted a powerful delusion, God’s words with a cunning twist. The delusion that Jesus is concerned about political agendas, your rights, our rights, my rights.

And there have been many signs of power and success in US history to accompany the inversion of Jesus’ teaching.

I used to say What about all our victories? What about our defeat of the British? What about Manifest Destiny? The Monroe Doctrine? Or defeat of the native warriors? What about the Civil War? What about WWI? WWII? Hiroshima? Nagasaki? Man on the Moon? Destruction of the Berlin Wall? Fall of the Soviet Union? Gulf War? What about making the world safe for democracy? What about liberating Iraq? What about killing bin Laden?

What about F-22s and Stealth Bombers? What about Smart Bombs? What about Hell Fire missiles?

What about Drones that take our enemies without endangering any of our boys?

What about the power of the Dollar? It’s the reserve currency of the world?

What about inventions? Electricity? Radiation? Electromagnetism? Science? Medicine? Vaccines that prevent disease? Farms that feed the world? Technology that puts the world at our fingertips? That tells us where to go and what to do there?

What about our Founding Fathers? What about the Declaration of Independence? The Constitution? Washington? Adams? Jefferson? Lincoln? Reagan? Bush? Bush?

Isn’t God’s blessing on us? Aren’t we his people?  I thought he said he would bless those who bless Abraham’s seed?

Doesn’t he care about what happens to America?

Doesn’t he care about what happens to me?


Why have we believed that all these things are from God? We believed a lie. And so did I.

I believed Jesus died for my rights.

Friday, June 22, 2012

1812: The War Party's First Great Success

     I've written a couple of posts on the subject of Truth in U.S. Wars; and I hope to write something about the War of 1812.  But I'm not there yet.

     Fortunately, Justin Raimondo is there, already.  I encourage you to read his interesting and challenging post -- "1812:  The War Party's First Great Success"; and I doubly encourage you to do so if (a) you are interested in teaching your children about history, or if (b) you are interested in applying lessons of history to the circumstances of today.

*       *       *

     For a related commentary, see Bionic Mosquito's post, "American Imperialism:  Born Hand-In-Hand With The Constitution." 

      Jefferson Morley also has an article at Salon, about "America's first neo-con war."  Interesting.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Banksters On Mediterranean Coasts In Trouble?

"The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks."  
-- J. E. E. Dalberg, Lord Acton

     Three elections were held this past weekend: all perhaps having more significance than the usual "musical-chairs" routines that characterize modern parliamentary "democracies."

     The election of a very Socialist-dominated parliament in France lends force to, perhaps even compels, the new Socialist president, Hollande, to radically change French economic policy.  Since the Sarkozy movement (which heavily favored the banksters and the Nato war-makers) is for now thoroughly marginalized, the common citizens of France (for whom the state is supposed to exist) may gain some real ground and improve their circumstances.  I personally hope they repudiate much or all of their foreign-investor-central-bank debt and take public and private ownership of their lives and their hopes and dreams.  Let the French take responsibility and control their own currency: re-invigorate the franc and ease out the euro.  The euro has not helped the local people, anywhere:  it has only helped outside investors place themselves in the driver's seat.

     The apparently split nature of the Greek election is most interesting -- but the banksters do not appear to be in a strong position, relative to the support of the people.  Once again, I hope that decisions are made that favor ordinary human beings and their free associations rather than submission to the central-bank cartel and their powerful little army of foreign thieves.

    In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has managed to elect a president against the will, and the favored candidate, of the military regime that has ruled that country continuously for more than a generation.  The military has responded by suspending parliament, and therefore suspending any sort of democratic, representative forms.  With the will of the people so openly resisted, one hardly expects that the Egyptian people will accept these new military measures indefinitely.  I hope and pray for no bloodshed.

     If we can imagine a world with central bankers, and no free people; or a world with free people, and no central bankers;  I should unhesitatingly choose the latter -- wouldn't you?  Of course, there may be a good Third Alternative.

     It might be a great time to re-read Henry Hazlitt's little book, Economics in One Lesson.  It pretty much says it all.


Friday, June 15, 2012

For Greater Glory

A movie review

     Brenda and I saw it last night, in a nearly empty theater.  I had heard about it only by reading a recommendation at Lew Rockwell's website.  I heartily second the recommendation.

     The movie, For Greater Glory,  is a first class production.   It has great cinematography; good performances by Andy Garcia, Peter O'Toole, Bruce Greenwood, and others; and a great musical score by James Horner.  It is a little bit longer than the average movie (it is a few minutes over two hours), which I especially like:  blessed is that movie which is good enough to know that it is a good movie, and isn't self-conscious about taking time.  This is such a movie.

     Based on the true story of the rebellion of the Cristeros against the secular, obnoxious, rude, and violent federal government of Mexico in the 1920s, it is pretty honest in dealing with faith, world, contradiction, ambiguity, and determination as they flow through cultures and individuals.

     Two things were particularly good about this movie, from my viewpoint.  The first thing is, that it portrayed a slice of history about which I was previously unaware, and deals with events in Mexico as if they were about real human beings like ourselves (shock! how liberal, how humanistic), instead of treating them as the Other, who are vaguely, and belong, South Of The Border.

     The second thing is, that I'm sure that the good people of Mexico are neither the first people, nor the last people, who have had to figure out for themselves how they are going to deal with a secular, obnoxious, rude, and violent federal government. . . . (Long pause, while we think about that for a few moments.)

     The Hollywood crowd seems to be downplaying this movie.  (I am told that the independent producers of this film have found it difficult to distribute it.)  Well, of course:  it can't play to a demographic.   It isn't a chick flick, so there go the ladies; it isn't a video game, so we've lost the young boys; it isn't even vaguely pornographic, so there go the men.  It isn't a feel-good movie, so there goes the Disney-Cinderella crowd.  It isn't about running drugs, so there goes the urban demographic, which is supposedly always morbidly interested in that.  It isn't a rehash of World War II, so there go the veterans.  It isn't set in the Middle East, so it doesn't matter to the intelligentsia.    It isn't about the Wonderful 'Mericans; so why would the Wonderful 'Mericans be interested?

    All that being said, that leaves us pretty much on our own to find out when and where it is playing near where we live.  I highly recommend this movie and plan to see it again, very very soon, before it is gone from the theaters.

*       *       *

     Wikipedia has a brief entry here.

     For a review by Ryan McMaken, go here.

     For a trailer on YouTube, see here.

     Have you seen it?  Care to comment?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Larry Wilkerson On Political Concerns

     "I'm worried and I would rather have the discussion and debate in the process we've designed than I would a diktat from a dumb strongman... I'd prefer to see the squabble of democracy to the efficiency of dictators." -- Col. Lawrence Wilkerson

     May I recommend Larry Wilkerson as a person to listen to about current political concerns in America?

    A couple of introductory remarks may be in order.

     Col. Wilkerson was the chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell during the run-up to the Iraq War.  A Wikipedia entry includes this comment about an interview he gave in 2006:

In a 2006 interview Wilkerson said that the speech Powell made before the United Nations on February 5, 2003—which laid out a case for war with Iraq—included falsehoods of which Powell had never been made aware. He said, "My participation in that presentation at the UN constitutes the lowest point in my professional life. I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community and the United Nations Security Council."[6]
Wilkerson said in 2011 that his preparing of the presentation was "probably the biggest mistake of my life", he regrets it, and that he regrets not resigning over it.
 He stated in the 2006 interview that neither CIA Director George Tenet nor the CIA analysts that gave Powell information on mobile biological laboratories explained that there were disputes about the reliability of the informants who had supplied the information—information which was used in the speech.
 Wilkerson also agreed with the interviewer that Cheney's frequent trips to the CIA would have brought "undue influence" on the agency. When asked if Cheney was "the kind of guy who could lean on somebody" he responded, "Absolutely. And be just as quiet and taciturn about it as-- he-- as he leaned on 'em. As he leaned on the Congress recently-- in the-- torture issue."
 Wilkerson stood by his earlier description of Cheney and Rumsfeld as having formed a cabal to hijack the decision-making process: "I'm worried and I would rather have the discussion and debate in the process we've designed than I would a diktat from a dumb strongman... I'd prefer to see the squabble of democracy to the efficiency of dictators."

*       *       *

     The Real News Network has links to past interviews with Larry Wilkerson.  and there are others available on YouTube and elsewhere.  I have not -- yet -- listened to all of them myself.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What Rabindranath Tagore Says About A Poet

     Rabindranath Tagore:

     ". . . Once, while passing under a bridge, the mast of my boat got stuck in one of its girders.  If only for a moment the mast would have bent an inch or two, or the bridge raised its back like a yawning cat, or the river given in, it would have been all right with me.  But they took no notice of my helplessness.  That is the very reason why I could make use of the river, and sail upon it with the help of the mast, and that is why, when its current was inconvenient, I could rely upon the bridge.  Things are what they are, and we have to know them if we would deal with them, and knowledge of them is possible because our wish is not their law.  This knowledge is a joy to us, for the knowledge is one of the channels of our relation with the things outside us; it is making them our own, and thus widening the limit of our self.

     "At every step we have to take into account others than ourselves.  For only in death are we alone.  A poet is a true poet when he can make his personal idea joyful to all men, which he could not do if he had not a medium common to all his audience.  This common language has its own law which the poet must discover and follow, by doing which he becomes true and attains poetic immortality."

     -- Rabindranath Tagore

     I thought that Justin might enjoy reading this.

*       *       *

     This is excerpted from "The Problem Of Evil," by Rabindranath Tagore, found on pp. 109-121 of Victor Gollancz' anthology, Man and God, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1951.

     Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.  You can read a little about him here.

     You may also be interested in knowing a little about Victor Gollancz.   Here is some information about him.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thinking About Ray Bradbury

     I like "slice of life" movies (and stories); ones that take ordinary people in ordinary events, and draw out the things that make them interesting.  That is why one of my favorite movies is Tender Mercies, with Robert Duvall and Tess Harper.  It is one reason why I find Wendell Berry to be one of my favorite story-tellers.

     I also like "make you think" stories (and movies);  ones that take realities, or possibilities, or orthodoxies, and stand them on their head.  That is why I like Charles Williams, G. K. Chesterton, and Stanley Kubrick.  It is one reason why I like George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward in They Might Be Giants, which I consider to be the best Sherlock Holmes film ever made.  (I know; that's just me.)

     Ray Bradbury, who died this week, was a "make you think" sort of guy.  Just this past year, I found myself buying and reading a fresh copy of his Martian Chronicles, after I had just bought and read his Zen In The Art Of Writing.  Made me think, all right.

     I guess I first ran into him in Fahrenheit 451, the famous novel (and movie).  It was about book-burning, but it was about something more -- the attempted destruction of the human imagination.  Bradbury was certainly interesting in that regard; always a human, always imagining things about other human imaginations.

     I imagine that he is not really gone.

     Not really.

*       *       *

     Gary North has an interesting article about Ray.  Let him give you his own take, here.

     There is a most interesting interview with Ray Bradbury in The Paris Review, with tremendous encouragement to anyone who wants to write.  Here is the link.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Power Elite Analysis

A review of two essays

     I have just encountered two essays that I feel are helpful in understanding the current political and economic situation in America.  I am always looking for good synthesis, and for basic research, and I recommend these as being good platforms from which one may develop his or her own inquiries in depth.


     The first is an essay titled, "Who Rules America: Power Elite Analysis and American History," published at LRC in January, 2012.  It is written by Charles Burris, who is identified as a history instructor in an American high school, and active in the Libertarian Party.

     The article reads like the beginnings of a curriculum outline, and indeed could be profitably used as such by home-schoolers, life-long learners, and teachers of history at the secondary and college levels.  It is possible that one might feel the need to "balance" this very libertarian approach with other perspectives -- or not.


     The second is an essay titled, "America's Ruling Class -- And The Perils Of Revolution," published in The American Spectator in July, 2010.  It is written by Angelo Codevilla, who is a professor of international relations at Boston University.  His work has been published in many magazines and papers. 

     His analysis of the political-spiritual situation in America is very much worth reading, in my view, despite a couple of inevitable limitations.  He begins with the Founding Generation, and briefly summarizes relevant political history up to the 2008 presidential election.  His analysis of the "Court Party" and the "Country Party" in American history is insightful and, I believe, quite sound.

     The limitations?  Ah, yes, the limitations -- inevitable, as I said.  The first limitation is as always, that we must never name, must never directly refer to, the Elephant in the room -- and I am not talking about the Republican elephant here.  Codevilla carefully avoids any reference to it.  (After all, he wants to get published.)  And so shall I.

     The second limitation is, there is not much in the essay that discusses What To Do.   Indeed:  that is because, in my view, it leads directly to a spiritual question, to which each and all of us must find the answer for ourselves.  Maybe we will be able to discover some possibilites, some Third Alternatives.

     Despite its limitations, the essay is important.  I urge a thoughtful reading of it.

*       *       *

Your comments are most certainly welcome.